"Whatever it takes."
Chuck Noll's fabled quote perfectly summarized his team's fourth Super Bowl championship, a 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV that put Noll alone on the mountaintop with the most Super Bowl wins of any NFL coach.
Noll stood alone on that mountaintop for 35 years, until Bill Belichick matched him with four Lombardi Trophies won at the conclusion of New England's 28-24 win in last night's Super Bowl.
Belichick's first and fourth Super Bowls wins spanned 14 seasons. Noll's fourth title came in the fourteenth year of Super Bowl competition. Noll played for the Cleveland Browns under legendary coach Paul Brown, while Belichick guided the original Browns to their final playoff victory in 1994. Both Noll and Belichick served as defensive coordinators in Super Bowls prior to becoming head coaches. The two also suffered through several losing seasons before reaching the height of their profession. Noll and Belichick were both coaches that were no nonsense, no frill individuals that created an environment where only the bottom line mattered.
The way Super Bowl XLIX was won evoked memories of Pittsburgh's final Super Bowl victory of the 1970s. Like New England, Pittsburgh trailed late in the game and, also like the Patriots last night, were facing serious adversity on offense. Terry Bradshaw had thrown three interceptions heading into the fourth quarter (Tom Brady had thrown two at the same point in last night's game) and, again like New England last night, could not establish their running game. Like the Patriots, it was a key interception that helped seal Pittsburgh's place in immortality.
If "whatever it takes" ever applied to a team and a moment, it was late in Super Bowl XIV where the quote literally came to life.
On third and long and trailing by two points, Bradshaw threw caution to the wind and threw deep to John Stallworth, who took the Blonde Bomber's pass in stride for a 73-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 24-19 lead.
Then came the No.2 play on our list of the Top-10 underrated Super Bowl plays of the '70s Steelers. With Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo moving Rams inside Pittsburgh territory, Noll needed his defense to once again rise to the occasion. Linebacker Jack Lambert stepped to the forefront, anticipating Ferragamo's pass and picking it off inside the Steelers red zone.
The pick set up the No.1 play of the list, when Bradshaw again went to Stallworth deep with the chance to put the game away. In one of the most sensational catches in Super Bowl history, when Stallworth adjusted to the slightly under-thrown pass, leaned backwards and like a Willie Mayes in the 1954 World Series, caught the ball over his shoulder to complete the 45-yard pass. The balletic reception set up Franco Harris' touchdown to put the game on ice at 31-19. It wasn't pretty, but in the end, Chuck Noll's Steelers were world champions again.
It was impossible to not think of Noll and that Steelers team last night upon seeing Belichick raise the Lombardi Trophy following his team's victory. While Noll no longer stands alone in the Super Bowl victory tally, last night's Patriots' victory, in a way, paid tribute to The Emperor. Months after his passing and 35 years after his final Super Bowl win, his name, his team's accomplishments, and the legacy of the 1970s Steelers, is still very much alive and well. SportsCenter showed highlights of Super Bowls X, XIII and XIV during Sunday night's show, reinforcing how important and still relevant that team and that era remains.
The Top 10 underrated '70s Steelers Super Bowl plays was constructed to remind readers of the underlying moments that helped make the Steelers Super Bowl champions. Each play was a tribute to Noll's "Whatever it takes" mantra, whether it was Dwight White overcoming pneumonia to score the first points of Super Bowl IX, Mike Wagner learning from his first quarter miscue to make a key interception late in Super Bowl X, Franco Harris seizing the moment with his game-breaking run in Super Bowl XIII, or Bradshaw overcoming the Rams defense on his final pass to Stallworth in Super Bowl XIV. Noll's Steelers did whatever it took to be champions, and regardless of what happens in the world of football going forward, their impact will not only ever be forgotten, but it will continue to be the standard of which every other Super Bowl champion, and championship coach, is measured.